News ID: 189755
Published: 0444 GMT March 23, 2017

Belgian police arrest man over possible car ramming

Belgian police arrest man over possible car ramming

Belgian police have arrested a man after he allegedly tried to drive his car into a crowd at high-speed in a shopping area in the port city of Antwerp.

According to Antwerp police chief, Serge Muyters, who spoke to reporters on Thursday, the man was of North African origin and used a car with French registration plates.

The incident came a day after an attack on the British parliament killed three people plus the attacker, as well as after the first anniversary of the Brussels attacks in which over 30 people died and more than 300 others were injured.

"A vehicle with French plates has tried to drive at high speed into the Meir (shopping street). A man in camouflage was taken away," Muyters told a news conference, adding, "The pedestrians had to jump aside."

"My gratitude on behalf of all Antwerp to the soldiers who have intervened, the police services and the special intervention force," Antwerp mayor, Bart de Wever, tweeted.

Meanwhile, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said the government was "following this situation as it develops" in the Flemish-speaking northern city.

"We continue to be vigilant. Our security services did an excellent job in Antwerp, thanks," he tweeted.

Meir is the main shopping street in Antwerp's historic center and is mostly pedestrianized. It is one of the most important shopping areas in the country.

A later statement by the prosecutor's office indicated that the car driver was of French nationality and Belgian security forces had found a rifle as well as bladed weapons in the vehicle.

"Different arms were found in the boot -- bladed weapons, a riot gun (rifle) and a container of liquid that is still unidentified," the statement added.

"The suspect is Mohamed R., born on May 8, 1977, of French nationality and a resident of France," the statement further said.

With soldiers deployed at key sites, Belgium has been on high alert since March 22 last year when bombers attacked Zaventem airport and Maalbeek metro station that left 32 people dead and more than 320 wounded.

Belgium suffered a further shock in August the same year when a machete-wielding man attacked two policewomen in the industrial town of Charleroi.

He badly injured one in the face, before a third officer shot him dead.

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